More on where the Liturgy comes from (Part II, continued)

In Commentary on the Divine Liturgy for laity on May 28, 2008 at 8:36 pm

2.  The Liturgy is the product of divine revelation as well as the greatest human cultural achievement.

The Divine Liturgy comes to us from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and is celebrated by His Apostles and their successors, the Orthodox Catholic bishops, right down to our time, in an uninterrupted continuum. This living process will continue, without a doubt, by God’s holy providence, until the Lord appears again to raise the dead.  St Paul informs us, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, that he “received from the Lord” (11: 23) that which he passed on to the Corinthians; namely, the Eucharist in which bread and wine are offered. The bread becomes for us the Body, and the wine, the Blood of the New Testament. This practice of liturgizing was spread by all of the Apostles, throughout the ancient world. After their passing from this life, the liturgy was celebrated in every place with both exacting uniformity and marvelous diversity. The uniformity is expressed in the central act of calling down the Holy Spirit, a little Pentecost, in which Christ becomes present, making the Paschal mystery present for the faithful. This is the divine nature of the liturgy: changeless, mystical, transcendent, surpassing the understanding, pure prayer. The diversity is expressed by the out-growth of localized liturgical families. For example, the liturgy was celebrated in a certain precise way in Jerusalem and in Antioch. This Antiochene way of liturgizing was carried by St John Chrysostom to Constantinople, where it became the basis for the Constantinopolitan, or imperial, “Great Church,” liturgy. There was a different way of liturgizing in Alexandria; and yet different again in Rome, Lyons, and Milan. This is the human nature of the liturgy. Like Jesus our Lord Himself, Who possesses two natures “inseparable yet unconfused,” so the liturgy possesses both a divine, changeless aspect as well as a human, linguistic and cultural expression, which is subject to constant change.  These changes, however, do not touch upon the mystical unity of the liturgy, which is not subject to change; namely, the showing forth of the Body of Christ, the Salvation of the world.


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